Both cassava and potatoes are starchy root vegetables that can be used in a variety of ways. But they have a few textural and flavor differences that make them unique.
Cassava Vs. Potato, what’s the difference? Cassava, also called, yuca is a root vegetable like potatoes. Cassava contains much more starch and is known to have a nuttier and sweeter flavor. Cassava is texturally different as it has a much thicker skin and is also used to make tapioca starch.
If you haven’t heard of cassava before, then we have the perfect guide to help you understand the differences between these healthy root vegetables. Read below to learn more!
What is Cassava?
Cassava may seem similar to potatoes, but cassava is a completely different species that belongs to a different family of root vegetables.
Chances are that you might have already tried cassava in some capacity because it is also used to make tapioca starch; the ingredient behind boba pearls in every refreshing boba tea!
Cassava plants are also very different from potato crops. Cassava plants grow in long bamboo-like shoots with leafy branches.
The crop is very easy to grow as the plant can be grown from any piece of branch from a grown cassava plant.
To harvest, the plant is carefully removed from the ground and separated from its roots which contain several cassavas.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of growing cassava as a crop is that it is highly resistant to drought and other extreme weather conditions which makes it an important food source in tropical and subtropical climates.
Characteristics of Cassava
To help explain how cassava is different from potatoes, we must first look at the three main characteristics of cassava:
Visual and Textural Characteristics
Cassavas are quite larger than potatoes. A fully grown cassava can be 6 to 12 inches long and have a diameter of about 2 to 4 inches.
Since it has a long cylindrical shape (like corn), the vegetable is cut in half, or multiple pieces, so that it’s easier to work with.
Raw cassava is covered with a rough and firm skin that is usually 1mm thick. The flesh of the vegetable is encased in a dark brown rind which can be removed by creating a lengthwise slit from top to bottom.
The rind can then be peeled off in a rolling motion.
Uncooked cassava has white to light yellow flesh. If you cut it in half, the cross-section will reveal a predominately white surface with a thin hard core in the middle.
The core can be removed by either slicing the vegetable in quarters or it can also be easily removed after the cassava has been thoroughly cooked.
Once cooked, the white flesh will take on a beautiful light golden color and the outside of the skin will prune which will indicate its doneness.
Depending on the type of cassava, you can get either an earthy and sweet flavor – or a mildly bitter flavor. An easy way to differentiate between each variety is by looking at the plant’s branches.
If the plant has green branches, then it will produce sweet cassava while purple branches will likely produce bigger, longer, and bitter cassava.
Bitter cassava isn’t preferred and is generally cultivated less in favor of the sweeter variety, however, when bitter cassava is boiled in salted water, the bitterness lessens and the vegetable takes on a mix of earthy, sweet, and slightly bitter flavor notes.
Cooked cassava has a nutty, sweet, and starchy flavor, which can resemble the notes found in most potato varieties.
This is one of the reasons why cassava can substitute potatoes as an arguably healthier alternative!
The uses of cassava are almost as versatile as potatoes. But they are usually first boiled and then fried, mashed, or baked.
A 100g serving of cassava can provide up to 147 calories, 30gs of carbs, 1g of protein, 4g of fiber, and traces of vitamins and minerals.
Unlike potatoes, raw cassava may also contain high levels of cyanide, especially the bitter variety, this is why it is recommended to cook cassava thoroughly to break down the cyanide.
Cooked cassava can be mashed, cubed, and even grilled. You can also use it to cook a healthier version of French fries! Raw cassava can also be used to make tapioca starch.
The starch is produced by grinding the cassava into a thick paste. The paste is then strained and the mixture is left to separate.
Once the starch collects at the bottom, the excess water is drained and the leftover starch is dried to create tapioca starch!
Since cassava is generally starchier than potatoes, the leftover water after grinding cassava can also be used as a natural thickener for sauces and soups.
Potatoes – A Quick Comparison
Even though potatoes are different from cassava, some potato varieties can share similar visual characteristics.
For example, jewel yam, Austrian crescent, and Russian banana are potato types that have very similar shapes. But an important giveaway is their color.
Potatoes can generally be found in shades of yellow or red, and their flesh is also visually different from cassava.
Potatoes have been an important part of the human diet for centuries, and unlike cassava, they have been the default choice for many recipes in various cultures around the world.
Potato crops are also easy to grow, like many root vegetables, but they usually grow well in temperate climates.
Characteristics of Potatoes
Here are some of the important differences in potatoes that set them apart from cassava:
As mentioned, potatoes can be found in many shapes and sizes, but their defining characteristic is their relatively soft skin and pale white to yellow/red flesh.
Potatoes like russet potatoes (and their subspecies) are a popular choice around the globe.
They are known for their golden or light-yellow skin and white flesh.
Some potato varieties, like red potatoes, have a reddish and thin outer skin with a pale white to light yellow flesh. But unlike cassava, potatoes aren’t as large or long!
The flesh of potatoes is firm but it isn’t as dense as cassava which can take up to 30-40 minutes of cooking time to render the flesh. In comparison, most potatoes can be rendered in about 15-20 minutes!
The reason for this is that potatoes don’t have as many plant fibers as cassava. Potatoes also have a smooth outer surface compared to the rough and hard surfaces of cassava varieties.
Peeling potatoes is also quite easy and can be achieved using any vegetable peeler. In fact, most potato varieties can also be cooked with the skin on which provides additional earthy notes!
Potatoes offer varying flavor notes. They can either be sweet, like in the case of sweet potatoes, or they can also be mild, like in the case of russet potatoes.
The ability of potatoes to take on varying flavors without a huge change in their texture is one of the biggest reasons for their widespread use in the culinary world.
Varieties like red potatoes or Yukon gold can also provide a great middle-ground with buttery, sweet, earthy, and vegetal flavor notes that can be used in a variety of recipes.
In comparison, cassava is usually just sweet and earthy, with hints of bitterness.
The uses of potatoes are virtually limitless. They can be mashed, fried, roasted, boiled, baked, and even steamed. A 100g serving of potatoes can provide up to 80 calories, 20g of carbs, 2g of protein, and 2g of fiber. They are also a great source of vitamins and minerals.
One of the most prominent uses of potatoes is making French fries which are extensively featured in the fast-food industry.
Potatoes are also beloved in many baked, and mashed recipes and are also served as sides for many vegetable and meat-based recipes too.
Fun fact: The global market for frozen French fries alone is expected to grow to $28bn by 2027!
Cassava on the other hand isn’t a widely consumed crop and is usually only enjoyed in tropical and subtropical countries like Africa and South America.
But with growing demand, due to its favorable nutritional profile, cassava consumption is slowly seeing yearly increases as well.
Interestingly, many people are also using cassava to make French fries that are crispier thanks to the vegetable’s high starch content!
Here is a quick comparison between cassava and potatoes:
|Skin and Color||Thicker dark brown rind.||Thick/thin skin, golden to light yellow color|
|Flavor||Sweet, earthy, and slightly bitter.||Sweet, earthy notes. Can also be neutral depending on the type.|
|Texture||Rough and firm with dense flesh.||Smooth and firm texture.|
|Best Used||Can be boiled, mashed, fried, or roasted.||Boiled, mashed, fried, baked, roasted, steamed.|
|Size and Shape||6-12 inches long. Cylindrical shape.||2-3 inches long. Usually have an oblong shape.|
|Nutrition (100g)||147 calories, Carbs: 35g, Fat: 0.5g, Fiber: 4g, Protein: 1g.||80 calories, Carbs: 20g, Fat: 1g, Fiber: 2g, Protein: 2g.|
Now that you know the differences between cassava and potatoes, here are some related questions:
Are cassava and potatoes stored the same way?
Cassava and potatoes can be stored in the same way. Both are root vegetables that are required to be stored in a cool, dry, and dark place to ensure maximum shelf life.
It is important to note that storing both root vegetables in humid and hot environments can significantly shorten their shelf life.
Can cassava be roasted?
Cassava can be peeled, sliced, and roasted in a 400F oven for about 40-45 minutes.
The best way to check the doneness of cassava is by sticking a toothpick in the middle, if the toothpick penetrates the vegetable easily, then the cassava will be cooked through.